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Brain and Behavior

Personality Disorders Shakeup in DSM-5

Narcissistic personality disorder is slated for removal from the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, to be published in 2013. So notes Charles Zanor in yesterday's New York Times.

But for some reason, Zanor glossed over the loss of four other personality disorders in the shakeup too -- Paranoid, Schizoid, Histrionic and Dependent Personality Disorders. (Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Avoidant and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorders will remain in the new revision.)

Their intended replacements?

"The Work Group recommends that [these disorders] be represented and diagnosed by a combination of core impairment in personality functioning and specific pathological personality traits, rather than as a specific type."

Is this a good idea?

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Brain and Behavior

Smile Big: You’re Going To Have a Good, Long Life

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
~Mark Twain

I have been interested in the art of smiling since my first graduate school paper The Biological and Maturational Development of the Smile in the Neonate. You don’t really want to know how long ago that was, but to give you a rough idea -- I wrote it while wearing my bellbottoms.

Back then I learned that infants initially smile as a type of reflex, almost as a way of getting them jump-started, but very soon afterward that grimace emerges into a social smile. They learn how to engage their caretakers, get some attention, be loved and, most importantly, survive. This means that a social smile has Darwinian value. But more than survival, a smile may be the doorway into understanding what brings us the good life.

Researchers LeeAnne Harker and Dacher Keltner (2001) analyzed college yearbook photographs of women displaying what is known as a Duchenne smile -- an honest, genuine, bona fide smile -- versus a non-Duchenne smile.
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Best of Our Blogs: November 30, 2010

I caught the movie Love and Other Drugs over the weekend. Did you see it? I have to say it surprised me by it's uncharacteristically non-romantic romantic comedy. Although it was funny and about love, it broached the topic in such a poignant and refreshing way, I was taken aback.

There was something Jake Gyllenhaal's character Jamie said towards the end of the movie that really stuck with me. He said that in a parallel universe the two of them would be healthy and perfect and would worry about superficial things like feeling guilty about hiring someone to clean their house. (Not to spoil it for you if you haven't seen the movie, but it is mentioned in the movie's description that one of them is ill.) Yet, he said he would rather be the couple they were now.

As I get through my own mix bag of sickness, I am reminded of what it means to be healthy, the importance we place on insignificant worries and how being sick is a constant reminder of what's really important-the people we love and our lives. I hope that if you're feeling under the weather as well, you'll take some time to rest, relax and reflect on everything good in your life. Oh and don't forget to read this week's mix bag of best blogs to lift you up. Keep warm, safe and healthy during this winter season and enjoy!

7 Quick Tips to Avoid a Meltdown

(World of Psychology) - Yes it's the season of joy and laughter. But it's also the season of meltdowns. Read these 7 tips quick to avoid another one.

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Brain and Behavior

The Man Who Did Not Take His Medicine and the Dog Who Saved Him

Today's guest post is by Dr. Olajide Williams, a general neurologist with special interest in stroke. He is Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University. The following story is an excerpt from his book, "Stroke Diaries," which is a collection of his experiences, both somber and hopeful. I find this piece on Oxford University Press's blog, which you can get to by clicking here.

Pedro was lying on the bathroom floor next to the toilet bowl. Water was still running from rusty faucet, overflowing the sink, and pooling around his body as he lay limp on wet porcelain tiles. Lucy was standing over him and whining. The young black Labrador retriever had not left her owner's side since the previous night. It was as if she had predicted it, as if she was responding to some perceptible change in his body, perhaps even a "stroke odor" that her heightened sense of smell allowed her to detect. Lucy had followed him everywhere; she lay awake next to him throughout the night, constantly licking the left side of his body. She rushed after him into the bathroom that morning, before Pedro's world began to tilt-the visual metamorphosis, tilting up to 180° in second, and developing into a violent vertigo that caused him to slump to the ground, hitting his head against the toilet bowl on the way down.

It was 5:30 a.m. The sun had just begun its ascent above the coastline when Pedro woke up to brush his teeth. And now, hours later, he could not get up off the floor. He could not move his left arm or left leg, and he could not feel Lucy licking his left palm.

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Anxiety and Panic

7 Quick Tips to Avoid a Meltdown

When you feel like strangling the guy in front of you at Target, read these 7 Quick Ways to Calm Down, I laughed at the art that went with it because, well, I sort of looked like that the other day.

I needed a reminder of them, and I thought maybe you could use one too.

1. Walk Away

Know your triggers. If a conversation about global warming, consumerism, or the trash crisis in the U.S. is overwhelming you, simply excuse yourself. If you're noise-sensitive and the scene at Toys-R-Us makes you want to throw whistling Elmo and his buddies across the store, tell your kids you need a time-out. (Bring along your husband or a friend so you can leave them safely, if need be.) My great-aunt Gigi knew her trigger points, and if a conversation or setting was getting close to them, she simply put one foot in front of another, and departed.

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Brain and Behavior

Scared Straight? Not Really

"Controlled studies show that boot camp and "Scared Straight" interventions are ineffective, and even potentially harmful, for delinquents." -- Lilienfeld et al, 2010, p.225

'Scared Straight' is a program designed to deter juvenile participants from future criminal offenses. Participants visit inmates, observe first-hand prison life and have interaction with adult inmates. These programs are popular in many areas of the world.

The basic premise of these programs are that juveniles who see what prison is like will be deterred from future violations of the law -- in other words, "scared straight." "Scared Straight" emphasizes severity of punishment, but neglects two other key components of deterrence theory -- certainty and swiftness (Mears, 2007).

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Happy Thanksgiving, 2010

If it's November and you live in the U.S., chances are you're going to find yourself eating some turkey today. Happy Thanksgiving! At this time of the year, it's also traditional to give thanks for what we have. We're a nation of bounty and plenty, even during these tough economic times. Most of us have the luxury of having a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and warmth in the cold. These are simple things we take for granted everyday.

But I want to really thank you for reading Psych Central's World of Psychology blog all year long. This has been the 10th year I've regularly been blogging, and it's 10 years I've really enjoyed. So thank you for reading.

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Brain and Behavior

Change is Hard, But Not Impossible

A lot of "Health 2.0" tools seek to help people change their behaviors to lead more healthy, productive lives. This is an admirable goal, and one I wholeheartedly endorse. Some of the tools are really "gee-whiz" neat!

However, many people involved with building Health 2.0 tools have little or no formal background in human behavior. How do you expect to build tools that seek to change human behavior, with no human behavior experts -- you know, psychologists -- consulting with you or on your staff?

That's like trying to write a piece of software without a programmer.

In reply to a query on this topic, and how people change their behavior, I wrote the following over at the Society for Participatory Medicine's blog. I think it encapsulates my experience with understanding human behavior (as a supposed expert in human behavior)...

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Children and Teens

Introducing The Dish and the Spoon

I’m pleased to introduce The Dish and the Spoon: Food and the Family with Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner. Her blog will focus on various topics related to parenting and food. How can parents keep up in the fast-food, instant gratification world? How can we eat a nutritional meal as a family?

Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner is a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern...
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Best of Our Blogs: November 23, 2010

Gratitude. It's a funny word, isn't it?

Being thankful used to make me cringe because I thought of it as an obligatory handwritten note or a required childhood greeting following birthdays and holidays and immediately after, "Hello."

But as I grew older, the words, "thank you," and "gratitude" had a lot more meaning. You could say a powerful one at that.

When I started to record what I was grateful for on any given day or send a note or even just an email to those who I was thankful for, it had a surprising effect. More than just ridding myself of childhood guilty from the expected etiquette of please and thank you, it changed the way I perceived the world and my role in it.

It meant that the difficulties in my life had a purpose. It meant the world was a lot more hopeful than it sometimes seemed. And that there were always an abundance of things to be grateful for, even on days that weren't so easy to get through.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I hope you'll join me in expressing thanks to those you love and for the people and things you often take for granted. I know being grateful for you (all you fabulous readers & bloggers out there!) is something that's on my list! What's on yours?

It's the Obsession, Silly!

(An Epidemic of Addiction) - There are lots of misconceptions about the differences between dependence and addiction. The differences are clarified here as well as the impact that removing an addict's obsession has on the person's character.

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Alone for Thanksgiving, Alone for Christmas

The holidays are upon us once again, and for many, it's a time of the year they spend alone. There are many reasons this occurs, whether it be because we can't afford to go home, or we have no "home" to travel to. Sometimes we just find ourselves alone for the holidays.

I've been alone for Thanksgiving, and I've been alone for Christmas. Sure, it's easy to fall into a funk and begin to feel sorry for yourself and your situation. Sometimes it was by choice, and other times it wasn't. In any case, when I was alone for Thanksgiving, I found a way to make the most of my situation and looked at it with from a very short-term perspective -- I may be alone this year, but who knows what will happen by next year.

It's also a great time to do something completely different and go outside of your comfort zone or shell of security. If you've never volunteered at a food bank or kitchen, give it a try. Gather together a few fellow co-worked or friends you think are also going to be alone for the holidays and throw your own little holiday pot-luck dinner. Sometimes the plans made at the last minute can be the most fun and exciting.

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